Thailand on Tuesday decriminalised kratom, a tropical leaf long used as a herbal remedy but which some health regulators around the world have criticised as potentially unsafe.
Kratom—scientific name Mitragyna speciosa—is part of the coffee family, used for centuries in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea for its pain-relieving and mildly stimulating effects.
It has become increasingly popular in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against its use, citing risks of addiction and abuse.
The change to Thai law means “the general public will be able to consume and sell kratom legally”, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement.
A Thailand Development Research Institute study estimated that decriminalisation will save authorities about 1.69 billion baht ($50 million) in prosecution costs.
Kratom stimulates the same brain receptors as morphine, though with much milder effects, and in Thailand it is mainly used in the deep south, where Muslim workers use it for pain relief after manual labour.
It has not been subject to international restrictions, though the World Health Organization announced last month that it was examining whether kratom should be considered for control. Read more here…